Rock Bridge volleyball player seeks athletic success in America

AP

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Kennedy Robbins came to the United States from Canada looking for a better chance to excel at volleyball. A change in jersey colors was far from the only difference she experienced in sporting cultures when she set foot in Missouri.

Robbins is a junior who plays volleyball for Rock Bridge but is originally from Windsor, Ontario, where she attended Vincent Massey Secondary School. The town isn’t too far from the American border, so there wasn’t a large cultural shift for her. Robbins was even an American citizen — she was born in Michigan. She visited the country often but lived in Canada all her life.

Robbins’ family made the move to Missouri after her father got a new job. Robbins said that her family made sure she got to Columbia in August for volleyball tryouts. Getting to know her teammates before starting school helped her establish a social foundation.

“My mom wanted me to have a social outlet to meet new people before school started, which was really helpful because I got to meet people right off the bat,” Robbins said.

Robbins began playing volleyball when she was in fifth grade but didn’t start taking the sport seriously until she was in ninth grade. For Robbins, coming to America meant that she was going to have a better chance to excel in volleyball because of the emphasis Americans put on sports.

“I knew coming here it was going to be competitive,” Robbins said. “In America they take sports more seriously.”

One of the biggest transitions for her was adjusting to the increased level of competition in school. While schools in Ontario had sports teams that would compete against each other, the real competition came from travel sports.

“School sports aren’t as competitive as travel sports in Canada,” Robbins said. “Travel there was the equivalent to school sports here.”

Robbins said that the better players would play on both school and travel teams, something she started doing when she began playing seriously.

Robbins aspires to play volleyball at the collegiate level, and she said playing in America gives her a better chance to accomplish that. She has previously attended volleyball camps in Michigan to learn about different American colleges.

Canadian universities, according to Robbins, don’t give out the kind of athletic scholarships that American schools do. Scouts don’t go to games as frequently, and Robbins said there is only one main volleyball tournament in Ontario that scouts would really go to at all.

“You wouldn’t see the amount of scouts at games,” Robbins said. “There’s more of an opportunity for exposure here.”

Robbins’ talent was one of the first things that was noticed by her coaches and teammates when she first came to tryouts in August.

“I noticed a lot of athleticism,” head coach Aaron Kincaid said.

“It was the first day of tryouts and we all noticed this tall girl who was really good,” teammate Emma Wilson said.

While the object of the game was still the same, Kincaid still saw Robbins having to adjust to the American game early on.

“It’s a lot faster pace, so it took her a while to get used to the speed of the game,” Kincaid said.

Most rules of the game also transferred over, but there were small differences between the countries like not being able to play the ball off the ceiling in Canada.

There was some different terminology, Robbins said, in Canada referring to the center of the court as the pot while her new team calls it the donut, but most of the language used was the same.

Even with a few minor differences, Robbins had no problems jelling with the team and was a welcomed addition by her teammates.

“She’s super easy to work with,” Wilson said. “She clicked with the team. We lost a couple seniors last year, and having a new upperclassman was helpful.”

Wilson said that Robbins enjoys telling her teammates stories of how different sports are in Columbia and her hometown. One big difference Robbins noticed was how much more American high schools care about their sports teams.

“My school’s football field didn’t have cheerleaders or stands,” Robbins said. “Not a lot of people showed up to the games. Over here, when it’s Friday night football, everyone shows up.”

Her school didn’t even provide most teams with transportation to get to games and the players had to get rides from their parents or carpool with each other.

“We didn’t have a team bus,” Robbins said. “Our football team had a bus, but no other teams did.”

Despite missing her old teammates back at home, Robbins has felt at home with her new team.

“They’ve been super welcoming, and I love them,” Robbins said. “They made it super easy to adjust.”

Supervising editor is Seth Bodine: sports@columbiamissourian.com, 882-5730.

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